VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Christ was born to touch people’s hearts and show that love is the power that changes the course of history, Pope Francis said.

However, the faithful must ask themselves, “Do we want to stand at his side? Do we draw close to him? Do we love his poverty? Or do we prefer to remain comfortably ensconced in our own interests and concerns?” the pope asked in his homily Dec. 24 as part of the nighttime liturgy.

Pope Francis kisses a figurine of the baby Jesus during Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 24, 2022. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“We are called to be a church that worships a Jesus who is poor and that serves him in the poor,” the pope said, calling for a renewed commitment to charitable action and concrete change.

“The church supports and blesses efforts to change the structures of injustice and sets down but one condition: that social, economic and political change truly benefit the poor,” the pope said, quoting St. Oscar Romero.

The evening Mass, which is often referred to as “midnight Mass,” has not been celebrated at midnight at the Vatican since 2009. Pope Francis celebrated the “Christmas Mass at Night” at 7:30 p.m., as he did in 2020 and 2021.

The Christmas hymn, “Noel,” was sung during the procession, and the Mass began with the Christmas proclamation, or “kalenda,” of Jesus’ birth. The pope, who was seated to the right of the altar, watched as a cloth was lifted, revealing a statue of baby Jesus.

The bells of St. Peter’s Basilica rang loudly announcing the birth of Christ, and several children representing different cultures placed white flowers around the crib of baby Jesus.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the danger of a Christmas filled only with “decorations and gifts, after so much consumerism that has packaged the mystery we celebrate.”

“How do we rediscover the meaning of Christmas?” the pope asked. “We need to look to the manger.”

“In the manger of rejection and discomfort, God makes himself present.”

“He comes there because there we see the problem of our humanity: the indifference produced by the greedy rush to possess and consume,” he said.

It is there that people can discover Jesus’ closeness to humanity, his choice to be present in the poor and marginalized, and his demand for “a concrete faith, made up of adoration and charity, not empty words and superficiality,” Pope Francis said.

The manger, as a feeding trough, can also symbolize a hunger for wealth and power, and people willing to consume “even their neighbors, their brothers and sisters,” he said.

“How many wars have we seen,” the pope asked, and how many places treat human dignity and freedom with contempt?

“This Christmas, too, as in the case of Jesus, a world ravenous for money, power and pleasure does not make room for the little ones, for so many unborn, poor and forgotten children,” especially those “devoured by war, poverty and injustice,” he said.

In Jesus, “every child is present. And we ourselves are invited to view life, politics and history through the eyes of children,” Pope Francis said.

With Jesus – born in a manger – he can become “our food,” feeding a hungry humanity “with his tender love,” he said. “He comes to touch our hearts and to tell us that love alone is the power that changes the course of history.”

On Christmas Eve, God is drawing near, the pope said. “From the manger, as food for your life, he tells you: ‘If you feel consumed by events, if you are devoured by a sense of guilt and inadequacy, if you hunger for justice, I, your God, am with you.'”

He said, “God was born in a manger so that you could be reborn in the very place where you thought you had hit rock bottom. There is no evil, there is no sin, from which Jesus does not want to save you. And he can. Christmas means that God is close to us: Let confidence be reborn!”

Jesus was born, lived and died in poverty, and he shows “where the true riches in life are to be found: not in money and power, but in relationships and persons,” he said.

“Let charity be reborn,” the pope said, and “may we not let this Christmas pass without doing something good” so that a little hope can be “born anew in those who feel hopeless.”

“Jesus is not satisfied with appearances” and good intentions, Pope Francis said.

Jesus wants concrete faith and the truth, he said. “He asks us to go to the bare reality of things, and to lay at the foot of the manger all our excuses, our justifications and our hypocrisies. Tenderly wrapped in swaddling clothes by Mary, he wants us to be clothed in love.”

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) – Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is a powerful symbol of eternal values, said the head of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reacts after addressing a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington Dec. 21, 2022. (CNS photo/Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters)

“He represents those who are willing to give their lives for the truth, for God-given human dignity and for freedom,” said Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia in a statement shared with Catholic News Service Dec. 22.

Archbishop Gudziak joined a delegation of Ukrainian and Ukrainian American leaders at the U.S. Capitol for Zelenskyy’s Dec. 21 in-person evening address to Congress.

The group included Father Mark Morozowich, a Ukrainian Catholic priest who is dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington.

Zelenskyy’s speech capped a one-day visit to Washington. The journey was his first known venture outside of Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion Feb. 24.

In his 20-minute speech, which he delivered in English, Zelenskyy demonstrated “he stands with his people, and … in a particular way he wanted to thank Americans,” said Archbishop Gudziak. “He expressed the gratitude of Ukrainians in many forms and many ways.”

Since Feb. 24, the U.S. has provided Ukraine with approximately $21.3 billion in military aid, with another $1.85 billion — including Patriot missiles — announced Dec. 21 by the Biden administration.

With the Senate’s Dec. 22 passage of the latest government spending bill, U.S. aid to Ukraine since February is poised to top $100 billion.

Amid multiple standing ovations from lawmakers, Zelenskyy assured Congress that “Ukraine is alive and kicking” and that Ukraine, the U.S. and Europe shared in a “joint victory” of “(defeating) Russia in the battle for minds of the world.”

That battle “is not only for life, freedom, and security of Ukrainians or any other nation which Russia attempts to conquer,” said Zelenskyy. “This struggle will define in what world our children and grandchildren will live, and then their children and grandchildren. It will define whether it will be a democracy of Ukrainians and for Americans, for all.”

That stark assessment stands in contrast to a 21st-century worldview in which “we’ve deconstructed almost everything, when everything is up for grabs, when truth is transactional,” said Archbishop Gudziak. “The people of Ukraine are saying, ‘No, there is good and evil. There is truth, and there are lies, and we are willing to give our lives for that.'”

Zelenskyy presented Congress with a Ukrainian flag signed by troops in Bakhmut, where he made an unannounced visit Dec. 20. Located in Ukraine’s eastern region, the small city has seen some of the bloodiest battles of the war, which continues attacks Russia launched in 2014 with the attempted annexation of Crimea and the backing of separatist regions in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk provinces.

Since then, hundreds of thousands have been killed, including 14,000 between 2014 and 2022 alone, and an estimated 10,000 to 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers from Feb. 24 to the first week of December.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has recorded 6,755 civilians killed since Feb. 24. U.N. figures show the war has displaced approximately 13.7 million in total, 7.8 million across Europe and 5.9 million internally. Ukraine’s National Information Bureau reports some 11,500 Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia.

Prosecutors in Ukraine are investigating at least 50,000 war crimes committed by Russian forces since February, including summary executions, torture, rape and castration. Relentless, direct attacks on civilian infrastructure by Russia have left millions of Ukrainians without access to electricity, heat and water.

Ukraine has filed an application with the International Court of Justice to charge Russia with committing genocide. The International Criminal Court is currently collecting evidence of potential crimes as well.

“Since the 17th century, Russia has been doing this to us,” said Ukrainian history expert Nicholas Rudnytzky, professor and dean of academic services at Manor College in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. “Every time Ukrainian nationalism grew enough, they attempted to knock it down.”

He stressed that “democracy has to be defended; otherwise, tyranny wins.”

Zelenskyy’s visit provided the U.S. with an essential reminder of that reality, said Archbishop Gudziak.

“I think we Americans need Ukraine,” he said. “We need the inspiration, we need the willingness to sacrifice, and we need to be a part of this defense of freedom and dignity in the face of absolute evil. I have no doubt that millions of Americans were inspired and understood better what they so generously support. And this support should continue.”

Wednesday, December 28, 2022 – 2 p.m.

The restoration and repair efforts to the Scranton building operated by Catholic Social Services that houses Saint James Manor and Saint Anthony’s Haven emergency shelter continue on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022.

While there has been a tremendous amount of work already done, Saint Anthony’s Haven emergency shelter will remain closed Wednesday evening, with our brothers and sisters experiencing homelessness still encouraged to visit the emergency shelter at Weston Field House operated by Keystone Mission. The 15 residents of Saint James Manor are also not yet being allowed back into their homes.

Electricity has been restored to the building and removal of water-damaged debris is continuing throughout the day. Employees from Damage Control continue to ensure that any damage is repaired or replaced. Professional contractors also spent Wednesday working to restore elevator service and plumbers have ordered a new hot water heater for Saint Anthony’s Haven shelter.

The staff and administration of Catholic Social Services would like to thank the residents of Saint James Manor and those individuals who rely on Saint Anthony’s Haven for their patience and understanding as we continue to work to ensure the building is, first and foremost, a safe and secure place for everyone to return.

Catholic Social Services’ goal continues to be resuming operations as quickly as possible and staff will continue to keep both the media and community updated on the progress to achieve those efforts.


Just before 5 p.m. on Monday evening, Dec. 26, 2022, a sprinkler pipe burst inside a building operated by Catholic Social Services at the corner of Wyoming Avenue and Olive Street in downtown Scranton. The building houses Saint James Manor, a transitional housing facility, as well as Saint Anthony’s Haven, an overnight emergency shelter for those experiencing homelessness.

Scranton firefighters and the Scranton building inspector, along with Catholic Social Services administrative staff, quickly responded to the scene and discovered significant water damage on several floors of the property.

On Tuesday morning, Dec. 27, electrical contractors responded to the scene to assess the damage and professionals from Damage Control immediately began the process of cleaning up the property with the hope of returning to normal operations as quickly as possible. The clean-up efforts remain ongoing at this time. As a result, both Saint James Manor and Saint Anthony’s Shelter will remain closed Tuesday evening as this work continues.

A total of 15 people from Saint James Manor were displaced on Monday evening because of the water damage inside the property. All of those clients have found alternative, temporary places to stay with family or friends or are being provided with accommodations by Catholic Social Services.

With a “Code Blue” still in effect in Lackawanna County Tuesday evening, anyone who is in need of emergency shelter through Saint Anthony’s Haven is being referred to the Keystone Mission shelter at Weston Field House.

The administrative staff of Catholic Social Services is working as quickly as possible to return the residents of Saint James Manor to their apartments and reopen Saint Anthony’s Haven to those needing emergency shelter.

Professionals have indicated that the sprinkler system will take at least 24 hours to fix and as soon as the property can be safely reoccupied, we plan to return to normal operations.

We will continue to update the community and the media in regards to the ongoing restoration and reopening efforts.

Staff of the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton discovered “666” markings on three front doors of the church on Christmas Evening, Dec. 25, 2022.

SCRANTON (December 26, 2022) – The administration of the Cathedral of Saint Peter is deeply saddened to report an act of vandalism to parish property discovered on Christmas evening, Dec. 25, 2022.

During an evening inspection of Cathedral grounds, Father Jeffrey Tudgay, pastor, discovered the numbers “666” carved separately into three front doors of the Cathedral church.

Scranton police have been notified of the vandalism and Cathedral staff will cooperate with the law enforcement investigation. Officers will be working to determine if surveillance cameras on Cathedral property might provide any information on who is responsible for the damage.

The discovery of the vandalism comes after hundreds of people joyfully celebrated Christmas at the Cathedral during five different Masses on Dec. 24 and Dec. 25. While it is currently unknown exactly when the vandalism occurred, the final Mass on Christmas Day took place at 12:15 p.m. on Sunday.

In response to the vandalism, the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, and Father Tudgay, Cathedral pastor, released the following statements:

“The vandalism discovered at our Cathedral, especially as we celebrated the Nativity of Our Lord, saddens me greatly. The doors of our Cathedral have been used countless times to bring people closer to God and it is my hope that the person who did this will regret his or her actions,” Bishop Bambera said. “I am offering my prayers for whoever did this and for their reconciliation to God.”

“I am hoping the individual responsible for the vandalism will come forward and allow me to have a conversation with them. We are a people of prayer who minister in a troubled world but the mission and message of Christ’s Church is one of forgiveness and reconciliation,” Father Tudgay added. “While we are upset at the actions that took place, we also understand the need to forgive and be forgiven.”

Anyone who might have information on the vandalism at the Cathedral of Saint Peter is urged to call the Scranton Police Department at (570) 348-4130.

Pope Francis listens as Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals, offers best wishes for Christmas on behalf of the cardinals and top officials of the Roman Curia during a gathering Dec. 22, 2022, in the Vatican’s Hall of Blessings. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Every Christian and every Christian community is called to conversion, a process that lasts a lifetime and is needed even more by people who think they are firmly on the path to holiness, Pope Francis told officials of the Roman Curia.

“The opposite of conversion is ‘immobility,’ the secret belief that we have nothing else to learn from the Gospel,” the pope told the cardinals and other top aides Dec. 22 as he met them for his traditional pre-Christmas speech and review of the past year.

Pope Francis went from the meeting in the Hall of Blessings to the Vatican audience hall where he offered his Christmas greetings and prayers for peace and serenity to Vatican employees and members of their families.

The Gospel calls to conversion and to peacemaking, including in one’s relationship with family members and co-workers, were at the center of the pope’s remarks to the Curia.

In October, the church celebrated the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, which Pope Francis said was “a great moment of conversion for the entire church.”

“The conversion that the council sparked was an effort to understand the Gospel more fully and to make it relevant, living and effective in our time,” he said, and the process “is far from complete.”

The ongoing reflection on “synodality,” and of ensuring members of the church listen to God and to each other, he said, “is the fruit of our conviction that the process of understanding Christ’s message never ends, but constantly challenges us.”

Conversion, he said, “is not simply about avoiding evil but doing all the good that we can. Where the Gospel is concerned, we are always like children needing to learn. The illusion that we have learned everything makes us fall into spiritual pride.”

Pope Francis said it is an “error” to try “to crystallize the message of Jesus in a single, perennially valid form,” because while the substance of the Gospel remains the same, the forms of expressing and explaining it must deepen over time and must respond to the new needs and challenges of any given age.

“True heresy consists not only in preaching another gospel as St. Paul told us,” he said, “but also in ceasing to translate its message into today’s languages and ways of thinking.”

“‘To preserve’ means to keep alive and not to imprison the message of Christ,” the pope said.

Pope Francis pointed to Jesus’ parables, including the parable of the prodigal son, to explain how those who wander far from God often recognize how they have sinned and then turn back, repentant.

But in the parable, the elder son knows he has stayed home, doing his duty, and so he thinks he is righteous and has no need for conversion.

“Those who remain at home,” he said, often fail to realize the errors of their ways, “convinced that they are mere victims, treated unjustly by constituted authority and, in the last analysis, by God himself.”

Pope Francis told the Curia officials that “at this time in our lives, we need to pay greater attention to the fact that, in a formal sense, we are now living ‘at home,’ within the walls of the institution, in the service of the Holy See, at the heart of the church. Precisely for this reason, we could easily fall into the temptation of thinking we are safe, better than others, no longer in need of conversion.”

In fact, he said, that sense of security means “we are in greater danger than all others, because we are beset by the ‘elegant demon,’ who does not make a loud entrance, but comes with flowers in his hand,” trying subtly to convince one that no further conversion is necessary.

Pope Francis also used the occasion to call attention again to Russia’s war on Ukraine and to the armed conflicts going on in many parts of the world.

“The culture of peace is not built up solely between peoples and nations,” he said. “It begins in the heart of every one of us” by uprooting any hatred or resentment of another person.

Personal peacemaking begins with self-examination, the pope said, urging the officials to ask: “How much bitterness do we have in our hearts? What is feeding it? What is the source of the indignation that so often creates distance between us and fuels anger and resentment? Why is it that backbiting in all its forms becomes our only way of talking about the things around us?”

Peace can be destroyed by “verbal violence, psychological violence, the violence of the abuse of power, the hidden violence of gossip,” he said. “In the presence of the Prince of Peace who comes into the world, let us lay aside all weapons of every kind.”

Participants wearing king costumes ride camels during the Three Kings Cavalcade parade in Warsaw, Poland, Jan. 6, 2022, in celebration of the Epiphany, also known as the 12th and final day of Christmas. (CNS photo/Kacper Pempel, Reuters)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CNS) – There are birds – lots of birds – gold rings, milking maids, dancing ladies, leaping lords, pipers and drummers, but is there a deeper meaning behind the gifts received in “The Twelve Days of Christmas?”

The song dates to 1714 Newcastle, England, according to the 1864 book “Songs of the Nativity” by William Henry Husk.

It recalls gifts the singer’s “true love” gave them over the course of the 12-day Christmas season, Dec. 25 through Jan. 5, Twelfth Night (defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the evening of Jan. 5, the day before Epiphany”), which traditionally marks the end of Christmas celebrations.

For many, the cumulative song is simply a fun Christmas carol.

But in 1979, English teacher and hymnologist Hugh D. McKellar of Canada wrote a short article, “How to Decode the Twelve Days of Christmas,” in which he theorized the song’s lyrics were intended to help teach the catechism of the Catholic Church following the Protestant Reformation when Catholicism was outlawed in England from 1558 through 1829, except during the reign of the Catholic James II (1685-88).

According to McKellar, each gift had a correlation to the church:

— The true love refers to God.

— The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.

— The two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.

— The three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.

— The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

— The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.

— The six geese a laying stood for the six days of creation.

— The seven swans a swimming represented the gifts of the Holy Spirit — prophecy, serving, teaching, exhortation, contribution, leadership and mercy.

— The eight maids a milking were the Eight Beatitudes.

— The nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

— The 10 lords a leaping were the Ten Commandments.

— The 11 pipers piping stood for the 11 faithful disciples.

— And the 12 drummers drumming symbolized the 12 points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.

Three years after McKeller published his article, a Catholic priest, Father Hal Stockert, picked up his idea and used it as the basis for an article he wrote in 1982 and posted online in 1995.

It is an interesting theory, but, unfortunately, McKellar provided no historical evidence to tie his thoughts to the historical record.

In fact,, a website that reviews stories of unknown or questionable origin, said the hypothesis that the song hides the Catholic catechism is incorrect.

David Mikkelson, author of the Snopes article, wrote: “Although Catholics and Anglicans used different English translations of the Bible (Douai-Reims and the King James version, respectively), all of the religious tenets supposedly preserved by the song ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ (with the possible exception of the number of sacraments) were shared by Catholics and Anglicans alike.

“There was absolutely no reason why any Catholic would have to hide his knowledge of any of the concepts supposedly symbolized in ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas,’ because these were basic articles of faith common to all denominations of Christianity.”

“None of these items,” he added, “would distinguish a Catholic from a Protestant, and therefor none of them needed to be ‘secretly’ encoded into song.”

Benedictine Father Jerome Kodell, former abbot of Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas, agreed.

“The catechism interpretation is preposterous because the scheme wouldn’t work in a Protestant country,” he said. “The song could function as a Christian subterfuge only in a non-Christian context or country, not in Protestant England.

“English Protestants would be teaching their children the same Christian truths as Catholics, so the use of this song would not tell you whether a family were Protestant or Catholic.”

Mikkelson said the carol most likely started in France and cites the 1780 children’s book “Mirth Without Mischief” that says the song was a Twelfth Night “memory-and-forfeits” game in which the song leader recited a verse.

Then each of the players repeated the verse, and the leader added another verse, and so on until one of the players made a mistake and was out of the game or had to give a treat to the other players.

Father Andrew Hart, theological consultant to Arkansas Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock, said the 12 days of Christmas is more a cultural rather than an ecclesial or liturgical tradition.

“In the liturgical calendar of the Latin Church, the octave of Christmas begins on Dec. 25, Christmas Day, and continues for eight days following,” said the priest, who is adjutant judicial vicar for the diocesan tribunal.

“Octaves are eight-day periods of celebration and rejoicing for the most important feasts of the church, Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, but there used to be many more,” he added.

The 12-day period that is culturally significant could have its origins in a decree from a meeting of bishops in Tours, France, in 567, which stated the Christmas season was to extend from Dec. 25 until Jan. 6, Father Hart said.

But he noted, the liturgical season of Christmas begins with the feast of the Nativity of the Lord and runs through the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, after which Ordinary Time begins.

Father Kodell said Epiphany is the older feast than Christmas, and in the Eastern Church and some parts of the Western Church it is the dominant feast of this season.

A Nativity scene placed in front of the Alaska Capitol in Juneau is seen in this December 2022 photo. (CNS photo/courtesy American Nativity Scene)

CHICAGO (CNS) – Private citizen groups have arranged for Nativity scenes to be on display at 43 state capitols around the country, a record number, according to a not-for-profit law firm’s tally.

The Chicago-based Thomas More Society said Dec. 20 that the number of displays is notable despite the secularization of Christmas throughout the U.S.

Four new displays depicting the biblical description of the birth of Jesus in a manger have been erected this year, the society said: Alaska, New York, Utah and Virginia.

“The message of hope delivery by the baby Jesus celebrates the joy of new life. This troubled world can benefit from more hope and more joy,” Ed O’Malley, president of the American Nativity Scene, said in a news release from the society.

The organization works with the law firm to ensure that private citizens can sponsor a manger scene on public property.

Thomas Olp, Thomas More Society vice president and senior counsel, said in a statement that state laws in large part allow government entities to erect and maintain celebrations of the Christmas holiday season or allow private citizens to put up manger scenes as long as “the sole purpose is not to promote its religious content.”

In addition, such displays must be “placed in context with other symbols of the season as part of an effort to celebrate the public Christmas holiday through traditional symbols,” Olp said.

“We pray that the Nativity scenes of the Christmas season will help to foster a sense of unity and peace on earth,” he added.

The state capitol sites without a privately sponsored Nativity display in 2022 are Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Nevada, Oregon and Tennessee.

A group of migrants is processed by the Texas National Guard after crossing the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas, Dec. 19, 2022, as U.S. border cities braced for an influx of asylum-seekers. (CNS photo/Jordan Vonderhaar, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Chief Justice John Roberts temporarily stopped the Biden administration from ending a pandemic-related border restriction with a one-page order Dec. 19.

It gives the Supreme Court time to consider the emergency request filed by 19 states asking the justices to keep in place what is known as Title 42 of the federal Public Health Services Act.

The Trump administration used the public health measure during the pandemic to allow U.S. border officials to expel migrants quickly without giving them an opportunity to seek asylum in the United States.

Roberts’ administrative stay ensures the policy — which a trial judge had ordered be ended by midnight Dec. 21 — could stay in place while the full court considered it. His order also asked the Biden administration to respond Dec. 20 by 5 p.m. (EST).

The Republican state attorneys general opposing the discontinuation of this policy warned that if the court did not block a federal judge’s order to end the policy it would “cause a crisis of unprecedented proportions at the border.”

The Biden administration had extended the policy last August, but this April they announced plans to end it, saying it was no longer necessary to protect public health.

Migrant advocates, including Catholic church organizations, women religious and Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ migration committee, have strongly supported ending Title 42.

Texas border cities, like El Paso, had been preparing for the surge of new migrants as the pandemic-era policy was scheduled to end.

In mid-December, Dylan Corbett, director of the Hope Border Institute, a Catholic organization helping migrants, said constant changing policies make it hard for organizations like his to plan.

“You have a lot of pent-up pain,” he told The Associated Press, noting that with government policies in disarray, “the majority of the work falls to faith communities to pick up the pieces and deal with the consequences.”

In October, Bishop Seitz issued a statement expressing his disappointment that Title 42 had been expanded to Venezuelans seeking to cross the border.

“Now we must all work harder, especially the faith community, to build a culture of hospitality that respects the dignity of those who migrate, and to continue to press lawmakers and the Biden administration to establish a safe, humane, functioning and rights-respecting system to ensure protection to those in need,” he said.

Title 42 is among other immigration policies brought to the Supreme Court this year. In June, the court ruled that the Biden administration could potentially end  the Trump administration’s “remain in Mexico” policy, which sent those seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border back to Mexico to wait for a hearing in U.S. immigration court.

But the Supreme Court also sent this back to a lower court to determine if the Biden administration’s efforts to end the policy complied with administrative laws. In mid-December, a federal judge in Texas put the administration’s attempts to end this policy on hold.

In late November, the Supreme Court also heard arguments challenging a 2021 policy that prioritizes certain groups of unauthorized immigrants for arrest and deportation. A ruling is expected next June.

Pope Francis kisses the hand of Gian Piero, also known as Wué, as he awards the Mother Teresa Prize to him during a ceremony marking the pope’s 86th birthday at the Vatican Dec. 17, 2023. Piero is a homeless man who gives a portion of the alms he receives to people who are poorer than he is. The pope gave the award to three people who have dedicated their lives to serving others. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis spent part of his 86th birthday paying tribute to people who have gone above and beyond in the exercise of charity.

At a ceremony in the Vatican Dec. 17, the pope presented the Mother Teresa Prize to: Franciscan Father Hanna Jallouf for his service to the poor of Syria; Gian Piero, also known as Wué, a homeless man who gives a portion of the alms he receives to people who are poorer than he is; and Silvano Pedrollo, an Italian businessman who builds schools, wells and health clinics in India, Africa and Latin America.

The award was sponsored by the Dicastery for the Service of Charity to honor people who, like St. Teresa of Kolkata, dedicate their lives to serving the poorest of the poor.

Two dozen members of the Missionaries of Charity and 20 guests housed in one of their Rome shelters joined Pope Francis and the award winners for the audience.

And soon after the ceremony, the Vatican press office announced that Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, head of the dicastery, had set off again for Ukraine with a truckload of generators, thermal clothing and other donations for the victims of war.

Pope Francis thanked his guests, including the cardinal, for their affection and for their witness to fraternity and the need for prayer, “which is the legacy that Mother Teresa always gave us. Even prayer in dark times — because this woman went through real spiritual storms with darkness inside, but she kept praying. She was a brave one!”

The pope prayed that “Mother Teresa from heaven” would help Christians to live “with simplicity and prayer.”